I received this book recently, and enjoyed reading it.
The author, Lawrence J. Bookbinder, Ph.D. practiced clinical psychology for over 30 years, supervised other clinical psychologists, authored and co-authored 10 professional articles, and was made Fellow of the Division of Psychotherapy by the American Psychological Association.
“Active listening” is the well-known technique used to feedback what you have heard, to confirm you have understood what the speaker said. That goes a long way towards helping better communication between people.
Bookbinder goes further, and advocates “Empathetic Acknowledgement“, in order to confirm that you understand how the speaker feels. He sees this as the key to better conversation, understanding and engagement, both on a personal level and more broadly in business.
To quote part of the book blurb on Amazon:
“The good news is that the responses to [Bookbinder’s] workshops and writings taught him that people could win friends and customers from their conversations without knowing how to listen like an expert. To help his readers easily and rapidly learn empathic listening, the author gives a wealth of conversation examples, writes in short paragraphs, uses plain English, and emphasizes bulleted lists”.
I particularly liked the chapters on “Controlling the urge to help” and “Controlling the urge to talk” – both issues I personally struggle with. In the former case, we all have a tendency to try to advise on a future course of action, provide comfort n the case of the other person’s distress, or offer “encouraging” but not terribly helpful noises. Empathetic Acknowledgement, however, encourages the listener to truly get into tune with the speakers feelings, and without interrupting, before jumping into solution mode. Bookbinder also offers helpful exercises to follow to practically aid your skill development.
The author gives examples of personal, one-to-one conversations, as well as more business oriented ones. Grocery shopping, for example!
The book is an easy read, with a logical structure and written in a conversational style. Bookbinder uses lots of bullet points, so it’s pretty easy to pick up the main points on a long flight, or even an evening’s read. Then, the bullets serve as a helpful reference to dip into afterwards. Chapters include:
- Empathic acknowledging
- Empathy verses sympathy
- Moving from no empathy to empathy
- Listening: empathic verses ordinary
- Psychological hugs
- Business success
- Receiving listening: advantages and disadvantages
- Giving listening: advantages and disadvantages
- Controlling the urge to talk
Bookbinder also backs up the book with extensive appendices and research notes, well worth dipping into to get more detail.
There are a lot of “self help” books out there, but I found this one insightful and different. Give it a whirl.